Infratil founder Lloyd Morrison dies of cancer

Last updated 13:01 10/02/2012

Lloyd Morrison 1957-2012

Lloyd Morrison
MAARTEN HOLL
1957-2012: Lloyd Morrison.

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Business leaders and politicians have shared tributes to Lloyd Morrison's passion for Wellington, business and football.

Morrison died of leukaemia this morning aged 54.

He was the founder of Wellington-based Infratil, an infrastructure investment company valued at $1.2 billion which has a controlling shareholding in Wellington airport, the local bus company and recently bought the Shell service station network in New Zealand. He was also a co-owner of the Wellington Phoenix.

Morrison's passing will be commemorated before Sunday's Phoenix game at Wespac Stadium against Brisbane Roar by a silence, and players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect.

Prime Minister John Key said he learnt of Mr Morrison's passing with "much sadness," after last speaking to him just a few weeks ago.
   
"Lloyd was a very successful businessman and, as a friend, I can say that he was also known for not being afraid to voice strong opinions - but he did this because he was totally passionate about New Zealand.
 
"Lloyd threw everything he had at his illness, as he threw everything he had at his life. I will miss him and my condolences go out to his family, his friends, and his colleagues at Infratil."

Mark Weldon, chief executive of NZX, said Morrison was one of the greatest business figures New Zealand had ever seen.

Weldon first crossed paths with Morrison by video conference when he and Andrew Harmos - the current NZX chairman - were recruiting a new chief executive. Morrison had then run a campaign to prevent the New Zealand Stock Exchange from falling into the hands of its Australian rival.

"Video conferencing in those days was all pretty clunky, but his force of personality, for me, was the biggest single factor that made me come back here and interview for the job [of NZX chief executive]. I didn't know the guy, I'd never heard of him, but just his absolute level of passion and determination and belief in the future was something I'd never seen in a New Zealand businessman before.''

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, who was good friends with Morrison, said his greatest achievement was his family.

Mr English's son played rugby with Mr Morrison's son for several years, and Mr Morrison offered "endless constructive criticism" about how the team could be improved.

"He was totally focused on his son and how he was progressing and on the coaching, and on the other players, and on the refs, and on the state of the football ground," Mr English said.

"There's no-one like him, he was a unique character who won't be replaced. They are just a fantastic family, and he talked about them a lot. I think that's why he was so committed to getting through the cancer."

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Former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast said Morrison would be missed hugely.

"That's a devastating loss, not just for Wellington but for New Zealand. He was an absolutely passionaite Wellingtonian, everything he did he gave 1000 per cent. Whether it was his passion for arts or business or Wellington being the creative capital, there wasn't anything he did that he hadn't given it his all."

 Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown described Morrison as " a really warm and intelligent Wellingtonian".

"Lloyd fitted more into his sadly short life than most people and made a valuable contribution to Wellington.
 
"His life must be celebrated. He showed that you can have a really positive family life, be a very successful business person and make a difference for the public good of the city. Many people are recognised in one of these spheres but Lloyd was a true all-rounder."

Labour party Deputy Grant Robertson said Morrison's death was a significant loss to the city and New Zealand at large.

"Above all things, Lloyd was a passionate Wellingtonian who had a desire to see his city, region and country prosper. His contribution to and investment in New Zealand's infrastructure and economic development was massive.

"Lloyd had an enormous pride and faith in New Zealand. He was a strong supporter of developing a distinct national identity, and will be remembered by many for his campaign to change the New Zealand flag."

His legacy would live on through his enormous contribution to the country, Robertson said.

Infratil chairman David Newman today described Morrison as "a true leader in all senses of the word".

In 1994 Newman, then managing director of BP in New Zealand, received a phone call from Morrison, who he did not know, asking him whether he was interested in joining the board of a new infrastructure project. He has been a board member ever since and chairman of infratil since 2004.

"He was delightfully challenging. You kind of always knew where he was going to come from but that didn't always help you respond. He had a big mind and a big vision.... In a funny role he was sometimes my mentor."

Until a few weeks ago Morrison was firing emails to colleagues about business and ideas.

"He never divorced himself from the business throughout the three years he's been receiving treatment. It was what he did and we expected it.''

The emails slowed a few weeks ago.

"It's been quiet for a week or two. You hate to say it, hard to take it in, but it was not unexpected."

On twitter, UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne described Morrison as a "visionary leader".

A statement from Wellington Phoenix Football Club said Morrison played a major role in bringing together members of the consortium.

"It didn't matter what Lloyd did, he always gave of his best", said his brother Rob Morrison, who is also a consortium member.

"Once he got involved in the Phoenix he became very passionate about the club." That passion was epitomised by the Phoenix shirt hanging on the wall in his Seattle hospital room.

FAMILY BY HIS SIDE

Morrison was being treated for a recurrence of acute myeloid leukaemia at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Speaking from Seattle, brother Rob Morrison said Lloyd was with family when he passed away this morning. His wife, Julie, and their five children were in Seattle with him.

He had spent the last few months of his life in one of the best treatment centres in the world, and had challenged the medical staff - as he did with people around him in life - to do their best.

"Often when someone dies of cancer it's 'they had a long battle' or 'they lost the battle with cancer'. Well that's not the case, he didn't lose any battles. He lived life and he lived it to the full, he always said there was no excuse for not achieving your potential.

"He came out a winner, because he continued to challenge the way people think about doing things in the medical faculty here, and the way they thought about treating him. He really pushed boundaries and really, in the end, he made sure there was no stone left unturned and when it was time to go he went on his terms."

Since his admission to the treatment centre in October, Lloyd had been surrounded by at least one member of his family - which included four brothers and one sister - at all times.

Rob Morrison flew to Seattle yesterday, when he heard his brother was deteriorating.

The funeral would be held in New Zealand, but it was too early to say when that would be.

Lloyd Morrison spent most of 2009 at the centre, trying to beat the aggressive cancer in his blood.

At the time he said the near- death experience had forced him to refocus and trim his business hours to part-time.

"I'm healthier than I was but I've got a long way to go. My No 1 priority is getting well."

This led to former Telecom executive Marko Bogoievski taking over as Infratil's chief executive.

Last year Morrison became part of the consortium of local businessmen who pledged cash to ensure the survival of the Phoenix football club.

In May 2011 Morrison was given a lifetime achievement award at the Gold Awards at the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington.

After recieving the award Morrison spoke about the development of Infratil.

"It's a long journey building a business, it's exciting when you can build a business in New Zealand and it's exciting when you can start it in Wellington and have quite a big impact.

"If you look back to where the business began it would have been inconcievable that one day we'd buy Shell in New Zealand and yet it looks as though we'll do a lot more than that over next 10 years."

TALENT CLEAR FROM CHILDHOOD

Morrison grew up in Palmerston North, his father was chairman of the Manawatu Standard and the family was dominated by the boys.

Brian Gaynor, the leading business commentator gave Morrison a summer job at Daysh-Renouf while the younger man was at Canterbury University, and later employed him in his first job as an investment analyst at Jarden & Co in the early 1980s.

Gaynor, at times fighting back tears about his former protégé, said it was immediately obvious that Morrison would be a success.

"You could spot immediately that he was going to be a success. He was very determined, he always joked, 'Gaynor, I'm going to own a Lear Jet by the time I'm 30'. He never got he Lear Jet but he had so much more," Gaynor said.

"He had the intellectual ability, he had the ability to communicate with people. Anyone I meet now I always ask myself 'Are they going to be the next Lloyd Morrison?' It is a hard benchmark, but he always had that X-factor.''

In 1988, aged 30, he founded the investment bank that would create Infratil. From humble beginnings it grew to own shareholdings in airports in Wellington and Britain, power companies on both sides of the Tasman, and more recently, the Shell petrol stations in New Zealand.

Morrison was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009, the year he was diagnosed with leukaemia.

He founded a musical charity and a campaign to change New Zealand's flag.

- BusinessDay

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